On Tuesday January 19, the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas was supposed to disembark passengers at a beachfront resort on Labadee in Haiti but was unable to because of a protest.
Labadee is a 260 acre peninsula located on the north coast of Haiti. There is a resort on the beach which is leased by Royal Caribbean and divided from the rest of the peninsula by a high fence and patrolled by security guards.
As the cruise ship approached Labadee around ten small boats approached, full of Haitians chanting and banging pots and pans. The 3,600 passengers on board thought it was part of a welcome ceremony until the coast guard arrived and began to circle the boats ordering them to leave.
The passengers were unsure what the protest was about but were preparing to disembark when an announcement was made that there would be a delay. Meanwhile the coast guard was still attempting to disperse the protest boats. Over two hours later a further announcement was made to say that the protests were nothing to do with a protest against the cruise line but they were related to the Haitian elections.
In the first round of the presidential elections no candidate had the required number of votes to declare victory and so there is supposed to be a second round of voting between the government candidate Jovenel Moise and opposition candidate Jude Celestin. However Celestin maintains that due to international interference and internal corruption there is no way he can win and hence he has boycotted the runoff election. This has led to major riots throughout Haiti over recent days.
A further announcement was made that in order to protect the safety of the passenger there would be no disembarking and the ship would spend the day at sea and proceed to Jamaica. The ship then departed.
Labadee has been the scene of tension before as the passengers are not allowed to leave the fenced off portion to see more of the country, nor are Haitians allowed to enter the compound. Sales of merchandise are allowed to only a few and the majority of the workers in the resort are not Haitian but other nationalities employed by Royal Caribbean.